04/23/2011 11:53AM

Penn National: Sheppard shipper no cinch


Jonathan Sheppard is best known for his prowess as a trainer of turf runners and jumpers. But based on a small sampling so far this season, he also does a pretty good job of picking out spots to ship horses from his farm in southeastern Pennsylvania to Penn National Race Course near Hershey, Pa.

Sheppard, 4 for 10 with the horses he has run at Penn National in 2011, will try to improve upon his win percentage when he sends out the 5-year-old mare Rhyme N Rhythm for the second race of her comeback after 14 months on the sidelines in Monday night’s featured sixth race. The second-level allowance for fillies and mares drew a field of nine, including a coupled entry, and will be contested at six furlongs.

In her first start since February 2010, Rhyme N Rhythm finished second in a field of 10 as the 7-5 favorite at the same level as Monday night’s race on April 4. The 79 Beyer Speed Figure she earned is slightly above the par of 76 for a second-level allowance at Penn National.

As a 3-year-old in 2009, Rhyme N Rhythm was good enough to record a 91 Beyer while missing by a nose in a first-level allowance at Penn.

Although Sheppard is 7 for 24 (29  percent) the past two years in races over Penn National’s main track, nearly all his success has come in routes. His horses are just 1 for 9 in sprints during that span.

Locally based trainer T. Bernard Houghton has a potent coupled entry in Outlaw Dancer and Photo Finish. Outlaw Dancer won a $75,000 stakes for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx Racing last summer and will be making her second start off an extended layoff. She finished fourth after flashing high early speed in the seven-furlong Foxy J.G. Stakes on April 9.

Photo Finish has been idle since December. She cuts back to a sprint after three consecutive routes, but the last two times she sprinted locally, Photo Finish won both races by a combined margin of more than 15 lengths.

Kiss the Stars makes her first start for the high-percentage barn of Lupe Preciado while returning from a seven-month layoff. The last time she raced at less than a mile, Kiss the Stars romped by 9 1/4 lengths in a seven-furlong allowance at Charles Town.

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